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Thursday, May 11, 2017, 12:57
Maker of smiles
By LOW SHI PING in Singapore
Thursday, May 11, 2017, 12:57 By LOW SHI PING in Singapore

A passion for serving people has taken a former tour guide to the top of his game in destination event management

(Ma Xuejing / CHINA DAILY)

How do you make 35,000 people fall in love with a country? That was the challenge Bert Chamrernnusit faced in 2012.

Rotary International had decided to hold its four-day annual convention in Bangkok, and Pacific World Meetings & Events (Thailand) had been made the official transportation vendor.

As Pacific World’s destination manager at the time, the responsibility for seamless delivery of the Rotary event’s logistics fell to Chamrernnusit and his team.

“There was a point during the convention that we had to move 15,000 delegates within one hour, which we did by using almost 700 coaches,” he recalled.

And yet, it would be wrong to suggest that just moving people around efficiently is his key performance indicator.

Since his entry into the hospitality industry in 1997, Chamrernnusit has had a single-minded focus: To make visitors to Thailand fall in love with his country.

“When I wake up every day, I think that there will be another couple or group of people who are going to love this country (with my help),” said the 41-year-old, who is passionate to a fault about Thailand.

He seems to have succeeded. At the end of the convention, Rotary International announced it was the largest event it had organized, and the logistics amounted to “one of the best experiences they have had in Thailand”.

Two years later, in 2014, he was promoted to country manager, and today Thailand consistently ranks as the No 1 market for Pacific World in Southeast Asia.

This despite the recent challenges the country has faced, such as the implementation of the state of emergency and martial law — which have since been lifted — and a series of bomb blasts in Bangkok, Hua Hin and Phuket in the past two years.

Chamrernnusit is quick to point out that Thailand has always “bounced back from whatever difficult times (it has) had”.

“Business was good last year; this year it will be even better. Since October 2016, we have seen a steady pickup in the number of requests.”

The reasons are obvious. As well as having great weather all year round, rich cultural heritage, abundance of nature and being value for money, Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles — and it is easy to see why.

Hospitality comes naturally to the Thais, who are known to be warm, gentle and peace-loving. Chamrernnusit’s job is simply to bring out these qualities in his team, for winning over clients.

“I try to influence my team with the passion that I have for serving people. I tell them to think about the happy faces of our clients when they are delivered good service.

“It is about constantly reminding them of the importance of putting their heart into their work and being motivated by the gratitude eventually shown to them.”

He is also a big advocate of sharing knowledge chalked up from team members’ past experiences. When passed on to the client, this can enable right decisions toward making an event successful.

“For me, it is about bringing everyone together in the same pot to share from each other — whether it is daily, weekly or after a major event — so everyone is up to speed.”

Aside from team management, Chamrernnusit’s time is spent keeping abreast of what is happening in his country, seeking out fresh ideas, and planning and executing events for clients.

Another memorable event he organized was a luxury incentive trip in 2014 for about 100 executives from a high-end car brand in North America.

“They were arriving in Bangkok after a long flight. How was I going to help them not think about that plane journey they just had?” he had wondered.

At the same time, he was keen to showcase the authentic face of Thailand.

That was how he found himself in a convoy of 150 tuk-tuks driving through the city, accompanied by police escort, and each affixed with the client’s company flag.

When the group moved to the popular island destination of Koh Samui, he arranged for a meal to be catered in Ang Thong National Park, fringed by a beach.

“When they cruised in, we were ready with low tables and beanbags on the sand. Therapists were waiting to give massages, and all our staff were wearing uniforms stitched with the client’s company logo.”

He said the client was so happy that it immediately announced Pacific World was to organize the same trip next year, as well as handle its corporate incentive trips to other destinations.

“The brief was to make it luxurious but it didn’t have to be expensive. It was about creating details that made the clients feel special.”

Originally from Hat Yai in southern Thailand, Chamrernnusit moved to Phuket in 1994 to study hotel and tourism management at the Prince of Songkla University.

Since high school, he realized he enjoyed being around people, which is how he ended up working at The Chedi resort — later rebranded The Surin Phuket — as a guest services officer.

However, standing behind a desk all day long did not allow him to meet enough people. Rather than give tourists advice on where to visit in Phuket, he felt compelled to take them himself.

That is why he moved on to becoming a tour guide. In 2004, he was awarded Tour Guide of the Year by the Thailand Tourism Authority. It was his passion for his country that swayed the judges.

The following year, he was hired by the general manager of Pacific World Thailand to help it sell the country to the world.

“Someone told me you know when you’re at the top when people tell you how good you are. When I was invited to join Pacific World, I said yes.”

Chamrernnusit has dedicated 11 years of his life to the company and still loves what he is doing. His loyalty stems from Pacific World’s focus on innovation, and how it gave him the chance to grow from an operational to management role.

“I believe the client experience is the most important. I still pick up clients at 2 am at the airport and stay with them till their event ends.”

One market that seems to appreciate his hard work is the Chinese. Business from China grew 15 percent between 2015 and 2016.

He noted that the way they travel has changed. Chinese clients are open to new ideas, preferring to skip the tourist traps and instead experience things the locals enjoy — for instance, a private barbecue in a national park.

To ensure he stays up to date on the fresh and the novel, the accomplished destination and events manager travels extensively, even over and above what he does for work.

Visiting the countries his clients come from helps him understand them better. It also inspires him to develop ideas for when he is back home.

For instance, when he visited Singapore and took a multicultural tour of the city, Chamrernnusit loved the idea so much that he immediately started thinking about how to offer something similar in Thailand.

“The line between work and play blurs for me,” he said. “I will never get tired of traveling because there are so many things out there to see and experience.”

Bio

Bert Chamrernnusit

Country manager, Pacific World Meetings & Events (Thailand)

Education:

1997: Bachelor of Business administration (hotel and tourism management), Prince of Songkla University, Phuket

Career milestones:

2015-present: Board member, Thailand Incentive and Convention Association

2014-present: Country manager, Pacific World Meetings & Events (Thailand)

2011-2014: Destination manager, Pacific World Meetings & Events (Thailand)

2008-2011: Business development director, Pacific World Meetings & Events (Thailand)

Awards:

2004: Tourist Guide Awards (Foreign Language — English) of the 5th Thailand Tourism Awards

Quick takes:

What are the latest event spaces making waves in Bangkok?

Rooftop bars and restaurants continue to be very trendy. There are many such spaces, particularly in hotels like the Anantara Sathorn, that do not get used for groups. We like to suggest them to our clients.

What experiences are most requested by your clients?

The most popular request is to experience Thailand as a local would. The challenge is to fulfill that, while catering to the large group sizes. For instance, visitors want to try out the traditional long-tail boats. We can arrange this and make it different by offering food and drinks while they are sailing.

What is key to a successful event?

Planning ahead is the most important thing to do. I always tell my team not to be afraid of sharing information — you never know what might come in useful. The last thing I want a client to say to me is: “You never told me.”

Date of birth: Jan 26, 1976


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